Implementing Connecticut’s new “teacher evaluation program” will be the most costly initiative local boards of education will be facing over the next couple of years. No one dismisses the importance of developing more effective teacher evaluation efforts, but the convoluted and complex system being developed by Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor will have a massive impact on how local schools function.
With limited state support, Connecticut’s cities and towns will collectively have to pay tens of millions to implement the new, state-mandated evaluation system. Add in the time required of superintendents, principals, administrators and teachers and the impact will be extraordinary, both in terms of cost and time taken away from instructional work.
When Governor Malloy’s “education reform” bill passed during the 2012 session of the Connecticut General Assembly it included an important provision that allowed towns to develop their own teacher evaluation systems, as long as those systems were approved by the State Board of Education.
The ability of towns to tailor their own evaluation systems was one of the few provisions that honored Connecticut’s historic commitment to allowing the citizens of each community to govern their own school systems.
At the time, legislators recognized the fundamental right of communities to develop teacher evaluation systems that meet state standards but took into consideration all the factors that go into managing a local school system.
But then, as the clock approached midnight on the second to last night of the recent legislative session, an incredible and stunning amendment was adopted by the legislature.
In the bill that allowed towns to “phase-in” the state’s new teacher evaluation system over the next two years, rather than forcing all of the changes this year, the legislature added two significant restrictions to a town’s right to develop their own system.
Using language provided by Commissioner Pryor’s staff, the legislation was changed to read that towns could only develop their own teacher evaluation systems if they, “expressed an intent, not later than July 1, 2013, to adopt a teacher evaluation program.”
The language means that even though the state system has not been finalized, if school superintendents and local boards of education do not inform Commissioner Pryor by July 1, 2013 that they intend to create a locally-developed system, they are prohibited from ever developing their own plan and must instead utilize the state plan no matter how bad it may be for their community.
Second, under the old language, the Connecticut’s State Board of Education was required to approve or reject a town’s locally developed plan. The Board’s participation assured that these decisions would be made in an open and transparent way and the local boards of education and the citizens of the community could come to a public board meeting to make their case, hear the discussion and see the vote.
Instead, the new amendment removed the role of the State Board and simply authorized Commissioner Pryor to decide the fate of any community-developed teacher evaluation plans.
One moment the law guaranteed that the state’s decisions were made in the light of day and in a public setting and the next, local communities were left twisting in the wind, forced into a situation where their local plans will be simply approved or rejected behind closed doors.
So now, as a result of the changes put forward by the Malloy Administration and Commissioner Pryor, and approved by the Connecticut General Assembly, superintendents and local boards of education have only TWO WEEKS to submit their intent should they want to develop their own local teacher evaluation systems…and even if they do submit a plan, its fate rests solely in the hands of a Commissioner who has no educational experience.
The new law now reads as follows:
“Section 10-151b (d) A local or regional board of education may phase in full implementation of the teacher evaluation and support program adopted pursuant to subsection (b) of this section during the school years commencing July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014, pursuant to a teacher evaluation and support program implementation plan adopted by the State Board of Education, in consultation with the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, not later than July 1, 2013. The Commissioner of Education may waive the provisions of subsection (b) of this section and the implementation plan provisions of this subsection for any local or regional board of education that has expressed an intent, not later than July 1, 2013, to adopt a teacher evaluation program for which such board requests a waiver in accordance with this subsection.”
The amendment passed the House of Representatives unanimously, with all Democrats and Republicans voting yes, on June 4th, 2013 at 10:49 p.m.